Cory Mccartney
Friday December 18th, 2009

Southern Miss (7-5) vs. Middle Tennessee State (9-3) Dec. 20, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Reason to Watch: Both teams boast potent offenses. Led by former Auburn coordinator Tony Franklin, Middle Tennessee State plays at a break-neck pace, averaging 1.86 seconds per play -- second only to Houston's 1.5. The unit is thriving (41.6 points in its last six games), behind Dwight Dasher, who has passed for 2,627 yards and 21 touchdowns and also leads the Blue Raiders with 958 rushing yards and 11 scores.

The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, are scoring 33 points per game behind a balanced offense led by running back Damion Fletcher (1,228 total yards, 10 TDs running, receiving and throwing) and receiver DeAndre Brown, who suffered a gruesome broken leg in last year's New Orleans Bowl but returned to total 720 yards and seven scores this season. The team lost quarterback Austin Davis to injury, but replacement Martevious Young has thrown 13 touchdowns to just one interception since stepping in.

Keen an Eye On: Blue Raiders DE Chris McCoy. It remains to be seen if either defense can keep this from turning into a shootout, but the Blue Raiders have thrived by getting into opponents' backfields, and the Sun Belt co-defensive player of the year is a big reason why. Middle Tennessee leads the nation in tackles for loss and sacks behind the senior, who has recorded 20.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Did You Know: Fletcher needs just 63 yards to become the ninth player in major college football history to total 1,000 in all four seasons. Currently sitting at 5,224 yards, he could pass Herschel Walker (5,259) and LaDainian Tomlinson (5,263) for eighth on the all-time rushing list.

Final Analysis: Middle Tennessee has been among the nation's best at forcing turnovers (31 on the season), while the Golden Eagles largely played mistake-free ball (15 turnovers). So who will break? With Brown and Fletcher, the versatile Southern Miss offense should keep the Blue Raiders on their heels.

The Pick: Southern Miss 34, Middle Tennessee State 28.

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